October to June is the best time to visit.
Accommodation can be arranged at the Kaliyar Bhavan Tourist Lodge at the Park. However advance bookings are a must. For details and reservations, contact: Assistant Forest Conservator, Velavadar, Blackbuck National Park, P.O. Vallabhipur, Bhavnagar. Tel.: 0278-428644.
Another alternative is to stay at Bhavnagar. Several options are available—the Nilambagh Palace Hotel. Tel.: 0278-424241. Hotel Blue Hill. Tel.: 0278-426951. Jubilee Hotel. Tel.: 0278-430045. Hotel Apollo. Tel.: 0278-245251. Lower budget alternatives are Shital Guest House. Tel.: 0278-428360. Vrindavan Hotel. Tel.: 0278-518928. Hotel Mini. Tel.: 0278-24415.
By Air: The nearest airport is at Bhavnagar (65 km.).
By Rail: Bhavnagar, 65 km. from Velavadar is a convenient railhead. There are direct trains everyday from Ahmedabad to Bhavnagar (299 km.) Bhavnagar is 65 km. from the Park.
By Road: The park is 315 km. from Rajkot and 170 km. from Ahmedabad. It is most easily accessible from Bhavnagar city (65km.) Buses ply everyday between Bhavnagar and Velavadar. Two buses leave Bhavnagar every afternoon and return the next morning. The buses halt at Vallabhipur, 45 km. from the park. You can also hire taxis if you want to simply make a day trip to the park.
More than 1,000 blackbuck exist on the open grasslands of Velavadar. These are shy and extremely graceful animals and the fastest of all Indian antelopes. The male has ringed horns spirally twisted into three or four turns; up to 70 cm. long. Females are light brown and usually lack horns.
Wolves and jackals are prime predators in the park. Other mammals seen in Velavadar include the fox, jackal, jungle cat, wild pig, nilgai, the blacknaped hare and several rodents.
Velavadar must feature on any birdwatcher’s itinerary. The international harrier expert, Roger Clarke of the UK, has certified the harrier roost at Velavadar National Park as one of the largest in the world. Harriers mainly arrive during the winter. Species found include the Pale Harrier, Montague Harrier, Marsh Harrier and the Hen Harrier. Several other bird species are also found in Velavadar. Sarus and Demoiselle Cranes, Painted and White Storks, the Spot-billed Duck and the White Ibis are some of the prominent amongst these. Sandgrouse, pintails and partridges abound while species like the Red Wattled Lapwing also make the occasional appearance. Five species of larks are found at Velavadar including the Sykes’ Lark. The Red-necked Falcon, Painted Francolin, Rain Quail and flocks of the Indian Courser may also be encountered within the park. The Oriental Pratincole is fairly common and the Little Bustard Quail is sometimes seen. The dainty Lesser Florican arrives in time for the rains, almost like clockwork, year after year. Velavadar is often quoted as one of the best places to observe the Lesser Florican. Sightings are almost assured during the monsoons, when they arrive to breed.
Velavadar National Park extends over an area of 35 sq. km. comprising mainly flat grasslands. The Park lies between two rivers, some distance away from the Gulf of Cambay. The fertile soils are believed to have arisen from the sea.
This is a unique National Park with exclusive grassland habitat. The savannah type grasslands extend uniformly, interspersed with dry thorny scrub. The grasses on an average grow about 30-45 cm. tall.
Blackbuck at Velavadar welcome tourists right at the gate. They may often be seen crisscrossing the park, sometimes even on the road. Herds of chital may also be seen in the grasslands. Wolves prefer the shrubs for lying and feeding. They mainly prey on the blackbuck, hare and other small animals. Wolves, although rare in India, may be seen prowling about in Velavadar and they may also be seen drinking at water holes between dawn and dusk.
The Lesser Florican, although a rare and shy bird, is relatively easy to spot at Velavadar and you may see several everyday without making much of an effort. On arrival, the males first mark their territories and soon commence their courtship display to attract the female. They jump vertically up to about two meters high and they can do this about 500 times in a day! The park staff even marks the territories with a pole, so you may see many males doing their high-jumps near their territory, even from the Tourist Lodge.
Permission to visit may be obtained from Assistant Conservator of Forests in Bhavnagar, Bhavnagar Forest Office, Multi-Storey Building, Annexe F/10, Bhavnagar. Tel.: 0278-426425. This is especially required if you plan to visit during the off-season. Food must be ordered in advance, so that arrangements can be made. Guides who will take you around the park may be hired on a three-hourly basis.
Assistant Conservator of Forests, Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar, F/10, Bahumali Bhawan, Bhavnagar – 360 001. Tel.: 0278-426425; Fax: 0278-632900.
Before independence, Velavadar was part of the Bhavnagar kingdom. It was once the grazing ground for the kingdom’s cattle. Blackbuck, which occur in large numbers, were hunted by Maharaja Krishnakumar Sinhji with the help of the cheetah. However, hunting was only done in certain seasons and for the rest of the year, the local communities took great care to preserve the blackbuck population.
The Blackbuck is considered sacred in Hindu mythology. It is locally known as kailyar in Gujarati. Krishna sara, Krishna mruga and saranga are its Sanskrit names. The Kathi community of Gujarat associates the blackbuck with valour and religion and has made great efforts to ensure the protection of blackbuck in the region.
After independence, in the absence of the seasonal controls exercised during the Maharaja’s reign, hunting occurred unchecked without any rules or regulations. The grassland was declared a sanctuary in 1969 and then a National Park in 1976.